I had ideas for umpteen blogs. Here is where they all somehow converge and I attempt to do something productive with my sprawling web presence.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
The National Audubon Society launches the 115th annual Christmas Bird Count
During the holiday season, many do more than simply sing their birds (as in a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, six geese a-laying, etc. from the carol, “Twelve Days of Christmas”). Many also do more than simply eat their birds at their holiday feasts. Every year, between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, the annual Christmas Bird Count takes place. For many this has become a holiday tradition which is also what Popular Science calls “the oldest citizen science project in the world.”
It’s the “longest-running wintertime tradition” that the National Audubon Society (NAS) hosts, reported CBS News, Dec. 12. Every year, tens of thousands of pro and beginning birders alike volunteer to put their birding skills to use. They count and record every individual bird they see during the course of one day and within a certain defined distance by the NAS’ stipulations. The information gathered becomes a part of the Audubon Society’s extensive database that has tracked early winter bird populations across the Americas for the past 114 years.
According to NAS (via Popular Science), the Christmas Bird Count followed a holiday tradition called “the Christmas Side Hunt.” Essentially, hunters would go out in two separate teams and bring back piles of birds and other animals. The team with the highest stack of birds and animals would win. It was ornithologist Frank Chapman who had proposed a “Christmas Bird Census” in 1900 as an alternative to the Side Hunt which promoted over hunting. Conservation was in its fledgling state then, but the “Christmas Bird Census” caught on. Researchers and scientists had been noticing the decline of bird populations. This was a way to get the public involved.
The NAS notes on their website that the findings from the Christmas Bird Count are processed into data that aids in conservation efforts. “The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservations biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long term health and status of bird populations across North America,” they add. It’s a very important part of the research needed in creating a whole picture of how the birds are doing in the Americas. Put alongside other studies such as the Breeding Bird Survey, researchers can really get a greater picture of what’s happening in bird populations and then move forward to find solutions for and inform the public about things such as diminuating habitats and environmental threats.
So, how about it? Want to take part? Popular Science tells us that anyone can participate in the annual count. However, in order for the data to be usable by researchers and conservationists, birders must register and follow a “specific methodology.” “Each ‘count’ takes place in an established 15-mile wide diameter ‘circle,’ and the circle is organized by an experienced count compiler.” That means, if you are are an enthusiasts or beginning birder, you can find a group that follows the methodologies put into place by the NAS and that has at least one experienced birdwatcher.
Here is a searchable map to find out where bird counters are gathering to take part in the census. If one of these locations is near you, you are encouraged to register at this link. Participation in the Christmas Bird Count is free.
*originally published on the now defunct Examiner.com